By Joe Rutherford/NEMS Daily Journal
Construction of the new Mississippi Highway 9 from Sherman to Pontotoc continues at what Department of Transportation officials describe as a record-setting pace, with completion possible well before the contract date in December 2012.
The work by Eutaw Construction started July 5 on the 12-plus-mile four-lane, limited-access artery. DOT District Engineer Bill Jamieson said this week the work was 44 percent complete in mid-September – 16.7 percent of the contract time – and about 100 days ahead of schedule, aided by unusually good construction weather.
The four-lane artery will link Mississippi Highway 6 near Pontotoc with U.S. 78 and Magnolia Way, which provides direct access to the Toyota assembly plant at Blue Springs. The project was bid at $87.5 million, and a $90 million state bond issue was approved in 2010 to fund the construction at an accelerated rate.
Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert said in an interview this week the design-and-build method allows work to flow smoothly in a continuous cycle, not waiting for the completion of separate phases before the next stage of work starts.
Tagert said the pace of Highway 9 work is an endorsement of the design-and-build method, which he hopes can be used on additional projects.
Jamieson said Eutaw, headquartered in Aberdeen, is under an incentive contract that will pay them $50,000 per day in extra compensation for each day completion is ahead of schedule, up to 100 days and $5 million.
Progress on the new route is apparent to motorists on existing Highway 9 and the county roads crossing construction zones.
Jamieson also said inclement winter weather could slow the pace of work, but he does not expect it to delay an earlier-than-expected finish.